Out of power – banks causing problems for many with power of attorney

New Which? research reveals the banks causing the most difficulties for people acting as attorney, and uncovers wide inconsistencies in the advice being given.

With 2.5 million registered powers of attorney, the legal document which gives someone (the attorney) authority to make financial, health or welfare decisions for another (the donor),  many are facing an uphill battle with banks to register and assert their authority.

In a recent survey, one in five (20%) attorneys said banks were particularly difficult to deal with when it came to registering their powers. Almost one in ten said the same about private pension providers and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Yorkshire Bank was rated as the worst bank in a Which? survey, with a third (32%) claiming its service was poor when registering as an attorney. HSBC and Co-op Bank were close behind, after 27% said they received poor service when registering. Over one in five also gave these three banks below average scores for communication.

Building societies performed better than banks in the survey, with 85% rating highly the service when registering attorney authority with Yorkshire Building Society.

An impressive 76% rated Nationwide Building Society’s service as good when registering as an attorney, whilst 75% were positive about Coventry Building Society’s service.

Which? research found banks were restricting attorney’s access to accounts, despite them being entitled to the same access as the donor.

Post Office Money, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money refused to give attorney’s access to online banks accounts, while Nationwide was the only provider that wouldn’t issue an additional debit card for attorneys.

Which? also investigated 14 big banks and found that staff regularly gave inconsistent advice over the phone to attorneys registering their powers and restricting attorney’s access to accounts.

On numerous occasions, HSBC and TSB said that the donor needed to register the power of attorney in person, despite both banks telling us this is not necessary.

TSB and HSBC also told attorneys they would not have access to the donor’s online banking accounts. However, both banks confirmed to Which? that attorneys are entitled to the same access as the donor.

Halifax, Lloyds,Nationwide and Santander were the only banks to have a specialist power of attorney team who, for the most part, gave accurate and consistent advice.

With attorneys – usually acting on behalf of friends and relatives – already under considerable stress, this research indicates that banks are making a difficult job even harder.


Harry Rose, Which? Money Editor, said:

“Attorneys should not have to jump through hoops when dealing with banks, and should be able to rely on banks for accurate information and advice.

“Banks need to ensure staff are fully trained on power of attorney and have in place an efficient registration process for attorneys.”


Advice from Which? Legal

Acting as an attorney may seem like a daunting responsibility, this is what you should know:

  • To be recognised as an attorney you need to have a certified copy of the original power of attorney, or the original power of attorney stamped by the Office of Public Guardian.
  • There is no limit on the number of attorneys, however there must be a clear distinction (from the donor) on whether the attorneys must act jointly or can use their powers independently.
  • It is best to request several certified copies of the original power of attorney, this will avoid having to wait to receive it from one organisation. The certified copies of the lasting power of attorney are not obtained from the Office of Public Guardian, the donor can either certify the copies themselves, if they have capacity, or get a solicitor to certify copies
  • Gather all relevant documents and information such as account numbers, passbooks and certificates as well as tax codes and National Insurance.
  • As an attorney, you must maintain a care of duty to the donor, ideally you should keep all receipt and some form of accounts.

Notes to editor

In May, Which? surveyed 2,906 Which? members who have used a power of attorney in the past three years.

In the survey, Which? asked members to rate the service they have received from banks and building societies they had to deal with on behalf of donors. Find the full ratings below:

Bank Percentage rated as “good” when registering initial authority Percentage  rated as “poor” when registering initial authority
Leeds Building Society 73% 0%
Yorkshire Building Society 85% 3%
Skipton Building Society 68% 7%
Coventry Building Society 75% 7%
Nationwide Building Society 76% 8%
NS&I 68% 11%
Virgin Money 69% 11%
TSB Bank 70% 12%
Aldermore Bank 56% 13%
Natwest 72% 14%
Halifax 69% 16%
Tesco Bank 57% 17%
Lloyds Bank 63% 18%
Bank of Scotland 59% 19%
RBS 68% 19%
M&S Bank 47% 20%
Santander 61% 21%
Barclays Bank 61% 22%
Post Office Money 51% 23%
HSBC 55% 27%
Co-Op Bank 57% 27%
Yorkshire Bank 61% 32%


Which? also investigated 14 big banks to test the advice given over the phone to attorneys asking how to register their powers – and if this matched with the banks’ official response.

In the England and Wales, there are two types of Power of Attorney:

  • General or Ordinary Power Of Attorney gives someone permission to make financial decisions and is valid when you have mental capacity.
  • Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA) gives someone else authority to make decisions in future if you can’t or don’t want to. This can cover both health and finances.
  • Although you can no longer set up an Enduring Power of Attorney, there may still be some in circulation.  Which? Legal still receives queries about this format.

In Scotland there are three types of Power of Attorney:

  • Continuing Power of Attorney (CPA) gives attorneys the power to make decisions about money and property, including managing bank or building society accounts, paying bills, collecting a pension or benefits and, if necessary, selling a home. It can be set up to be used when you have capacity, as long as you have given consent to your attorney.
  • Welfare Power of Attorney (WPA) gives an attorney the power to make decisions on welfare issues such as daily routine (washing, dressing, eating), medical care, moving into a care home and life-sustaining medical treatment. It can only be used if when the donor is unable to make their own decisions.
  • General Power of Attorney (GPA) gives an attorney authority to act on the donor’s behalf for a temporary time period.

Which? Legal membership gives you and everyone in your household peace of mind. Our team of specialist legal advisers are available during our office hours throughout the year, by phone or email, ready to offer step by step guidance to help you through the legal process.

Find out more about power of attorney at wills.which.co.uk


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